This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 29 August 2007.

  • Countdown #35 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Sean McKeever, Keith Giffen, Manuel Garcia & Mark McKenna (DC)
  • Ex Machina Masquerade Special by Brian K. Vaughan & John Paul Leon (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Manhunter: Origins TPB vol 3, by Marc Andreyko, Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco (DC)
  • Hellboy: Darkness Calls # 5 of 6, by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo (Dark Horse)

I think Greg Burgas nails it in his review of the Ex Machina special: It’s not a story of any great consequence, and the sentiment driving the plot doesn’t ring true. Plus, I’ve never warmed to John Paul Leon’s pencils, as the renderings aren’t to my taste, and his layouts never seem to really tell the story, they just sit there. The earlier 2-part special, drawn by Chris Sprouse, was much better than this one in every way.

(And why did a Halloween comic come out in late August? Especially strange since we’re in the middle of a brutal heat wave here on the west coast.)

Manhunter: Origins TPB vol 3Manhunter really hits its stride with this third collection, which focuses on Kate Spencer’s “origins”, both her gear and her personal history. She also continues to battle the dregs of the DC Universe’s array of supervillains (wow, I’d completely forgotten about Punch and Jewelee). I suspect the reason it’s been struggling to gain readers is that it has taken so long to hit its stride; the first twelve issues (that’s a whole year of issues, folks) thrashed around like the series was trying to establish itself rather than trying to finds its voice, which is rather putting the cart before the horse.

Anyway, this series of federal-prosecutor-turned-vigilante stays down-to-Earth, while being strangely conflicted: It deals with some intensely personal issues, yet always seems to keep the characters’ emotions at arm’s length, always being a little too matter-of-fact for its character bits. That we only get brief glimpses of most of the supporting cast doesn’t help. The adventure bits are a lot of fun, though, and present an unusually unglamorous view of superheroing – reasonably enough, since Manhunter is truly a vigilante and not a traditional hero.

Manhunter has been a fan favorite on the Internet for a while. I don’t think it lives up to the hype, but if it truly comes back from its current hiatus then I’ll probably add the monthly book to my saver at my local store.

And now, a slightly different tack: Comments on books I didn’t buy:

I thumbed through the first issue of the new Brit series. Brit is another of Robert (Invincible) Kirkman’s Image Comics heroes: A middle-aged man who’s completely invulnerable and decidedly sardonic, who works for the government. I picked up the collection of the earlier stories, Old Soldier a while back: The stories are basically big “smash-’em-up” ones, which means they’re okay, but not deep. A nice occasional diversion, but not something that holds up over time. This new series I guess is supposed to be somewhat deeper, but the first issue looked like more of the same. Brit isn’t as appealing a lead character as Invincible, so I decided to pass on this one. (Often I decide not to buy a series which is going through a revival because, as I put it, “I’ve been on that train before and I don’t really want to get on again.”)

I also glanced at The Mice Templar #1, from Michael Avon Oeming, whose art on Powers is quite good, but I’ve never warmed to anything else he’s done. The art here actually made me cringe (take a look), so I took a pass on this one. I’m already reading Mouse Guard, and I think it’ll fill my need for rodent adventure stories on its own.

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 22 August 2007.

I should push this entry on last week’s comics out the door before this week’s comics come out, huh?

  • Countdown #36 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Tony Bedard, Jim Calafiaore & Jack Purcell (DC)
  • Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #33, by Tony Bedard & Dennis Calero (DC)
  • Starlord #2 of 4, by Keith Giffen, Timothy Green II & Victor Olazaba (Marvel)
  • Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #1 of 6, by David Petersen (Archaia)
  • Invincible #45 by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)

The problem is that I didn’t have a lot to say about this haul. Countdown muddles on, Supergirl and the Legion and Starlord are both okay, Invincible is a lot of fun.

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #1The most significant book here is the first issue of the new Mouse Guard series. For a change, I’ve been on board with this surprisingly popular series since issue #1 of the first series, and I do enjoy it. The first series concerned a traitor trying to overthrow the Guard and the ruler of the mouse nation, and the second opens with the mice trying to survive a particularly harsh winter, with a band of our heroes making the trek to one of their outer towns to procure some supplies for the main city of Lockhaven.

The big flaw in the series, I think, is that it’s hard to keep the characters straight: For the most part, all the mice look the same, albeit in different colors (the coloring is actually quite lush and carries the artwork at times). And characterization tends to range from simplistic to nonexistent. This makes the book a slightly more challenging read, and not in a good way. But Petersen’s depictions of the landscapes and the mouse townships are the art’s strength, evocative of Mark Oakley’s Thieves & Kings, Mark Smylie’s Artesia (from the same publisher), or even David Macaulay‘s books about history and architecture. Although I don’t think it’s a “visually stunning comic book” like Brian Cronin does, it’s still a fun read. I just feel that there’s room for development on both the writing and the art side.

You can also visit David Petersen’s blog.


Review of the film Stardust.

I remember when Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess‘ book Stardust was published in the 1990s: It first came out as a series of 4 squarebound comic books, and I looked forward to it eagerly, having greatly enjoyed the couple of issues of The Sandman they’d done together. But I was bitterly disappointed in the series.

First, rather than being a graphic novel, it was instead a prose novel with illustrations by Vess. Moreover, it felt like a step backwards for both creators in its quality. Thumbing through it today, Vess’ illustrations often are of very simple design and execution, and don’t illustrate the moments that I’d most have liked to see illustrated. Gaiman’s text seems extremely weak: The characters have none of the strength or humor he employed in Sandman as a counterpoint to the (intentionally) dreary title figure, and the narrative style is plodding. Gaiman seems to have a tendency to start by writing a “travelogue”, taking the reader on a tour of the ideas in his head, but without much actually happening. Stardust has this problem in spades, and with a decidedly anticlimactic ending. It’s my least favorite of Gaiman’s novels.

So I wasn’t enthusiastic about a film adaptation of the book – until I saw the previews for it. A good cast, and the scenes looked more dramatic than I’d recalled from the book. So I decided I was interested in going to see it, and I’m glad I did, because Stardust the film is much better than the book.

The story takes place in the 19th century: Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) is in love with Victoria (Sienna Miller), but she doesn’t love him. One night, they spy a falling star, and Tristan promises to find that star and bring it back to her. But it falls beyond the wall for which is town is named, and the guard won’t let him through. Tristan learns from his father that he was born beyond the wall, and a gift from his mother allows him to head beyond the wall to the magical world of Stormhold on his quest.

The star turns out to be a young woman, Yvaine (Claire Danes), who had been pulled to earth as part of a test by the dying King of Stormhold to choose his successor. Yvaine carries a jewel which will allow the successor to ascend the throne, and the jewel is pursued by the King’s sons Primus (Jason Flemyng) and Septimus (Mark Strong). Yvaine herself is sought for nefarious purposes by a trio of aged witches, in particular the evil Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer). Tristan finds her first, and they set off on paths to adventures as they make their way back to Wall, complicated by Yvaine’s dislike of Tristan as well as their pursuers.

Director Matthew Vaughn (who, like Charlie Cox, is entirely unknown to me) has assembled a terrific cast in support of a fine script which tightens up the novel and jettisons a lot of the boring stuff, while punching up the dialogue. Cox has an amiable-yet-bewildered nature which reminds me a bit of Matthew Broderick. Pfeiffer – as usual – is a thoroughly loathesome villain; a few more years of this and she’ll join Glenn Close among actresses I think are perfectly fine actresses, but they play so many roles of hateful characters that it’s hard to get behind her in any other role. Danes does a good job being by turns grumpy, resentful, insightful, lovestruck, and crushed, and she and Cox not only seem to have a good rapport, but they appear to build that rapport as their characters get to know each other.

Stealing the show is Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare, tyrannical commander of a lightning airship who isn’t all that he seems. He looks like he’s having the most fun he’s had in years, chewing scenery and acting like – well, you’ve gotta see it, it’s worth the price of admission all by itself.

I’ve never warmed to traditional views of Faerie; I find them depressing and capricious – maybe depressing because they’re capricious. So I was pleased that the film takes all of those elements out of Gaiman’s Faerie, as well as making several other changes, such as adding a climactic confrontation among the interested parties, something which was sorely lacking in the book. All the plot elements get neatly tied up in a much more satisfying manner than the book, especially in the epilogue.

The movie isn’t perfect: It still drags in places, especially in the first half. Yvaine’s behavior when they reach Wall lacks motivation (Debbi pointed this one out to me), and seems intended simply for cheap drama, which is too bad since plenty of expensive drama occurs immediately afterwards. But it gets a lot more right than it gets wrong, and all-in-all it’s a fun, exciting, and romantic film which is very well executed. I’m glad I saw it.

Friday Night Magic

Although some of our other friends organized a poker game last night, Subrata is closer to my frame of mind and is more interested in playing Magic, and he suggested that we go last night to play the Friday Night Magic booster draft at Superstars (I found a list of their tournaments, although the URL of that page makes it look pretty temporary). Neither of us had gone before, but it was all pretty easy: We showed up around 5:30, signed up for DCI membership, and at 6:00 they seated everyone (18 players) for two drafts and we began. Subrata and I ended up in separate drafts, but that was fine.

The draft was in the Time Spiral block, which I mostly enjoy, although I find Future Sight somewhat disappointing. I had a mediocre draft, partly due to mixed signals I was getting: My first two picks were from mediocre packs, but I ended up solidly in green through the first pack. Planar Chaos – as it often seems to be – was my strongest pack, although I ended up moving into black and then blue during it. Then in Future Sight I didn’t seem to be getting many interesting cards.

Well, there was a reason for all of this: The player to my right was drafting white/blue, and the player to his right was drafting red/green, and the player to my left was drafting black/white. So I did well when there was a surplus of green and blue coming around, but poorly when there wasn’t. I ended up with green/blue deck more heavy in green. I drafted a few good black cards and one good red card which I therefore didn’t use (which was too bad mainly because I always enjoy playing cards like Enslave).

Tarmogoyf.jpgAfter the draft we play three matches as chosen by the store organizers. My first match was against a green/black deck, and other than my getting smoked in the first game, we were pretty evenly matched. In particular, Frozen Aether totally shuts down combat tricks using Flash, or one-shot creatures like Groundbreaker. Unfortunately, my mind had trouble getting into the mechanics of the game, and I could have won the third game had I played slightly differently, but instead I lost 1 game to 2.

(This opponent did point out that the Tarmogoyf I drafted, which is currently selling for over $20 on the secondhand Magic card market, so in theory I could turn around and sell it ad recoup my entry fee for the tournament. How about that?)

The second match I played against a boy who was there with his father, also their first event at the store. (Subrata ended up playing the father in his draft.) I suggested that they should check out the columns on the Wizards web site for tips on drafting and playing. Anyway, he was playing a black/white deck with a number of tricks, and he got some help from one of the observers at the store (which I tried to be a good sport about). I turned out to have just enough answers for his threats (three Utopia Vows saved my bacon a lot) and won 2-0.

The third match was against a green/blue/red deck, and again we were pretty evenly matched, but he ended up with somewhat better draws then I had, and I went down 0-2. He had a lot of green cards that I had really wanted (I still don’t have a Nacatl War-Pride, sigh), so now I know where many of those went in the draft.

So overall I won one match, and it turns out that players get one free booster pack from one of the blocks in current Standard expansions, so I took a Planar Chaos one. Subrata also won one match in his game. We were both fairly competitive, but not among the top players. But we had fun!

The store is actually quite nice to play in, with plenty of tables, and it’s clean and bright (a lot of specialty stores in the gaming and comics areas can tend to be a little dark and dingy, and it’s always nice to visit a store that’s working hard to be pleasant and welcoming). All the other players were nice, too.

I still need to work on my card evaluation, and also getting better at reading which cards are being filtered out to my right. There’s a lot of randomness in the packs, which makes the latter difficult: One pack might make it look like blue is open, while the next make it look like blue is closed. Obviously I’ve got some work to do there.

Plus, now I know I have another outlet for playing Magic when I have the itch!

But I promise not to relate the details of every draft I do. 🙂

Kitty Trouble

Roulette’s been having a little trouble recently.

It started Sunday night, when I was up in the study and heard someone horking behind me. I turned around to see Roulette throwing up as Blackjack watched her. She only brought up some fluid, and then did it again a minute later.

Monday she horked again in the evening, and I noticed she also wasn’t eating very much. In particular she was chewing a kibble and only swallowing a little bit of it. Then overnight I woke up and heard her horking again. Each time she only brought up fluid.

Tuesday morning she ate just a little, but she did drink some water. So Tuesday afternoon Debbi called the vet and I brought her in and left her there to be checked out. Our theories were that she either had a hairball she was trying (and failing) to bring up, or that the food was bad (although the other cats weren’t affected). The vet checked her out and said they didn’t see anything, but they gave her some medicine and fluids, and gave us some stuff to give her if she kept throwing up. They also said to watch in case she has any trouble breathing. Apparently her teeth are fine and she’s not showing any signs of anything really serious.

She hasn’t thrown up since, and she’s eating a little more. The other cats aren’t eating as much, either, although it’s been quite hot this week so I suspect they’re just sleeping all the time and thus not terribly hungry. I did open another bag of food in case the one we were using had gone stale or something.

Hopefully it’s just a hairball or something that she can work through. It did have us pretty worried for a little while, though.

Boy did she go apeshit yesterday when she realized I was about to put her in the carrier, though! And she’s been taking meowing lessons from Jefferson, since she yowled the whole way to the vet. Sheesh!

The Journey is the Reward

I think you need to be fundamentally egotistical in some way to keep an on-line journal or blog. And I mean keep it; anyone can start a journal – LiveJournal is littered with transient and abandoned journals – but actually sticking with it for more than a few entries takes commitment, and commitment takes both a confidence that what you have to say is worth saying.

I’ve been doing this for a long time now, and I know I’m not the most popular blogger around. I think in my salad days I got about 120 hits a day. Lots of bloggers get that many hits in an hour, or heck, that many comments per day. Most of my traffic is probably people surfing in from search engines.

But that’s okay, because it’s been worth it.

A lot of what’s made it worthwhile has been the people I’ve met or corresponded with along the way, some of whom have become friends or provided some helpful suggestions or conversation. I made several good friends in a similar way back in my days of contributing to APAs, and journalling has been similar.

Here are a few people who have helped enrich my life through contact because of my journal:

  • As I’ve mentioned before, C.J. Silverio was my inspiration for starting this journal. We’d encountered each other on-line back in our Usenet days, and we started corresponding more often after I started my journal.

    I still remember in the fall of 1997 we each bought the computer game Riven and spent most of our waking, non-working hours playing it, and exchanging e-mails about our progress. At that time Ceej had a webcam in her home office where I would watcher her playing the game (at a rate of one frame every 5 minutes). I had this very oblique view of her screen, and I’d check her progress and try to figure out where she was. “Where is she? Is she ahead of me? Is she behind me? Have I been there already? What’s she doing?” We ended up finishing at almost exactly the same time. It was a lot of fun.

    When I moved to California, I became friends with her and her husband David. My first two years here we spent a lot of time going to baseball games together, we went through a phase of playing Starcraft on her home network, and even played some Magic. Ceej also provided me with hosting space on and later when I moved out here, and my primary e-mail is still there.

    We don’t see as much of each other these days, but we still keep in touch. I phoned her when Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run, for instance.

  • Two other friends I’ve spent a lot of time with since moving out here are Lucy Huntzinger and Trish. I discovered Trish’s journal back in the day because she was friends with another journaller I read at the time, and then we met in person when I moved out here. Lucy I had connections to through both the journalling community and science fiction fandom. I’ve been to the Exploratorium and the Aquarium with Trish, and the zoo with Lucy, as well as many parties that Lucy has hosted at her house. I still see Lucy from time to time, and Trish a little less often since she moved out of the area. They both helped a lot in orienting me to the area when I moved out here.

    If I recall correctly, I think I introduced Lucy and Trish to each other, and they’ve been close friends ever since. I think they refer to each of themselves as the other’s evil twin.
  • I’ve dated two different women I met through my journal. Adrienne was a woman who had just moved to the area and worked near where I lived. She found my journal and wrote to ask me a question, and we ended up corresponding and then dating for a few weeks. I don’t think I was in a good place for a relationship at the time, and made it more stressful than it needed to be, which was a bad thing considering our lives were both pretty stressful at the time anyway. We haven’t kept in touch since then, but I still remember her fondly.

    And then, Monique was a journaller who had moved to the Bay Area not long after I did. We met at one of Lucy’s parties, and dated for a few weeks. We had a fun time, but I don’t think we were well-matched for a relationship, plus we lived 50 miles apart which was a difficult obstacle to overcome. We still keep in contact occasionally, and read each others’ journals. These days she mainly writes at Big Fat Deal.

    And if you’re wondering, no, Debbi and I didn’t meet through my journal. We met through the mailing list for our 15-year high school reunion (which never happened!).

  • I’ve had two correspondents during the life of my journal with people who simply discovered my journal and found that we had a lot in common. The first was a fellow named Earl Edwards, who I mainly remember because he recommended several jazz artists to me back when I was getting into jazz music in 1998. In particular he recommended Joshua Redman, who’s one of my favorite modern saxophonists. I haven’t heard from Earl in several years (and we’ve never met), and I’m not sure what happened to him.
  • The other guy in this bucket is my friend J.D. Roth. I actually still have the first e-mail he sent me, from September 1998, which concerned science fiction, weight loss, and my justifications for how I decided to buy certain things. J.D. and I have a lot of overlapping interests, and having now met him twice during trips to Portland, I’m sure we could spend a lot of time nattering away if we lived closer together. J.D.’s been keeping a blog since (at least) 2001, and has ended up being a far more successful blogger than me tanks to his popular site Get Rich Slowly.
  • Looking through my archives, I come across the name of several other people I’ve corresponded with over the years: Rebekah Robertson, a lady from the D.C. area who found my journal back in the day and later started one of her own. Dorothy Rothschild, the pseudonym for a woman who kept a journal on for several years and whom I met when I was in the midwest. Jan Yarnot, another journaller I corresponded with from time to time. Anita Rowland, who’s been journalling maybe longer than I have, and who’s another science fiction fan. Staffan Kjell, an Apple user in Europe who’s been reading my journal for years.
  • Last but not least, there are the old-time journallers who are still plugging away.

    Diane Patterson has been journalling longer than I have, having marked her 10-year anniversary last year. She used to keep a list of journals older than 1 year, before the advent of things like Blogger and LiveJournal resulted in blogging being too popular to keep such a list. I still have a copy of the last version archived on my machine, which is handy to see who else is still out there. Diane was one of the most prolific and popular journallers back in the day, and one who seemed especially tuned into the rest of the community. Somehow we’ve never actually met.

    And there’s John Scalzi, one of the most popular journallers whom I’d heard of for quite a while, but hadn’t started following until we met at Journalcon 2002 when we were the only two people in the dinner contingent who decided to walk – rather than cab – back to the hotel. He’s a hilariously entertaining smartass who’s also now a published science fiction novelist.

Of course many of my in-person friends and family members read my journal too, but these are all folks that I probably would never have met if I hadn’t been keeping my journal. Ceej and Lucy I might have met through other means, but certainly journalling has had a positive impact on our friendships.

Since journalling is a “pull” activity (a reader has to decide to come to your site and read it, you don’t “push” it out to a group of recipients) you often have no idea who’s reading your journal, and a new reader – a new friend – can appear at any time and without you expecting it. But it’s one really big reason I’m glad I’ve kept up with this as long as I have.

Cheering Up

At the end of the work-week I was feeling decidedly glum. I was getting frustrated with my current project at work (which isn’t my favorite sort of project even when it’s going well), and I’d tried and failed – twice – to organize a Magic draft, but not enough people were interested. So Saturday morning I was feeling lethargic and not enthusiastic about anything we might do that day. (This despite an impromptu trip to the coast to see the sun set Friday night.)

After going out for lunch, though, I motivated myself to go down to Bay 101 to play some low-limit poker. And although it took more than an hour to get seated, I ended up having my best session in many months, and coming away feeling considerably cheered up!

Not only was it a fun and profitable session, but it was also memorable. Some notes:

  • I came in on the big blind when I sat down, and then got dealt crappy hands for the whole first orbit of the table (oddly, I got dealt Q-5 four times in those nine hands). At one point, worried that people would see me as an extremely tight player (and thus not want to play with me), I idly said, “Someday I’ll get some high cards…” The guy on my left commiserated with me and said that he’d learned that Hold ‘Em is a game that requires patience.

    My big blind came back around and he said, “Okay, here’s your high cards. Now you gotta play ’em!” I said, “I will, if no one raises me!” He laughed, and the woman on his left said, “Well I’m going to raise you!” So she raised and four people called. And I looked at my cards… and had two Aces! So I said, “Well I’m going to re-raise you!” Everyone called, and five opponents isn’t a great situation for pocket pairs unless you hit a set (three of a kind), but the board was an innocuous collection of low cards. I bet the flop, and everyone called. I bet the turn, and got two callers. And I bet the river, and only the original raiser called, and then mucked when I showed my Aces. So I won a huge pot!
  • About 15 minutes later I got Aces again in my big blind – the two red Aces, this time. I raised, and got 5 callers again. And the flop, the flop was… A-A-9. Yes, I flopped four Aces. Everyone checked the flop, everyone checked the turn, so on the river I hoped someone had hit something, so I bet, and everyone folded. “You guys are No Fun At All,” I said as I showed my Aces. Everyone groaned, and one person said, “Well at least you got your preflop raise in!” Not a huge pot, but not bad at all.

    Afterwards I said, “I do actually raise with cards other than Aces,” just in case anyone was wondering.
  • An hour into the game our table got broken up. The casino wanted to reclaim one of the low-limit games for a high-stakes game, so they waited until there were enough open seats at other tables and then we got dispersed. I learned that – at Bay 101 at least – if you get moved, then you come in after the dealer button has passed and effectively get to play a round without posting the blind. So that was nice. The new table was a little tougher than the first table, but I also got a little luckier, so it worked out.
  • At the new table, I got dealt Kings twice, and won once and lost once. I lost most of my winnings to the player on my right, who was both playing well and catching a lot of cards, but then I managed to chip up again over the course of several pots.
  • The most memorable hand at this table involved playing a trick on another player. I played Q-Jo from the big blind, and the betting went like this:
    • Five players, including the woman who played the whole hand, limped in. I checked my blind (Q-Jo isn’t a hand I’m thrilled to play for a raise against 6 players, although maybe I should have).
    • The flop was Q-8-3 rainbow. I bet, and the woman calls. Everyone else folds.
    • The turn is another Q. Now I have trip Queens, and I’m thinking, “Hmm, if I bet, she’s going to assume I have a Queen and fold. So maybe I can be sneaky to get one more bet out of her. Better yet, she might bet into me!” I check, and she checks.
    • The river is an 6. No flush possibilities. I bet, and the woman thinks for a bit and calls. I win with my trip Queens (she didn’t show her hand).

    I was a little surprised this trick worked, and actually felt a little bad about it (but only a little). I assume she had middle pair or maybe Jacks, Tens or Nines, or maybe even two pair (she might have been playing 8-6, for instance, though that’s not very likely as she was a moderately tight player). I’m not sure what she put me on, but it’s not she might have thought I had the same sorts of hands.

    Several other players declared they were suspicious of my check on the turn, but who knows what they might have done in her place!

So I left feeling considerably cheered up, and better about my poker playing than I have in a long time. Okay, I know I had a bit of a lucky streak, but it seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve had a lucky streak. It made me happy.

The rest of the weekend was also fun, although not something conducive to deconstruction: Saturday night we joined some friends for bowing at Strike, an upscale bowling alley in a nearby mall. The food and drinks were good (if a bit slow to arrive), and bowling was fun – always kind of entertaining to play a game that I’m not much good at, and don’t have much interest to get better at. My friend Josh cleaned up, but then, I think he’s bowled more than the rest of us.

Sunday morning some other friends came over and we went to the farmer’s market, and then for a bike ride, stopping at the Shoreline Cafe for lunch. It was just about a perfect day for a ride, and we had a good time. Afterwards, Debbi and I went out for coffee, and when we got back I spent some time working on some Magic decks for a constructed game another friend hosts each week.

So all-in-all it was a good weekend with friends and relaxation and some good luck. And maybe it’s recharged me enough to tackle the new week head-on.

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 15 August 2007.

  • Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #55, by Tad Williams & Shawn McManus (DC)
  • Booster Gold #1, by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
  • The Brave and The Bold #6, by Mark Waid, George Pérez & Scott Koblish (DC)
  • Countdown #37 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Adam Beechen, Keith Giffen, David Lopez, Mike Norton, Don Hillsman II, & Rod Ramos (DC)
  • Armageddon Conquest: Quasar #2 of 4, by Christos N. Gage, Mike Lilly, Bob Almond & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
  • Invincible: My Favorite Martian TPB vol 8, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)
  • Invincible #42-44, by Robert Kirkman & Ryan Ottley (Image)

Booster Gold #1If you were on board for Keith Giffen’s Justice League series or last year’s 52 series, then you know that Booster Gold is a glory-hound hero who does the right thing while trying to promote his image and get rich. He’s a bit of a comical character, whose history has gotten rather tortured as his powers have changed, his best friend has been killed, and he’s helped save the timestream.

If you’re a True Believer, though, you know that Booster Gold was the first superhero created after the Crisis, way back in 1986. Created by Dan Jurgens, a writer/artist with a clean line who’s probably best-known for killing off Superman, Booster was a frustrated ex-football player from the 25th century who came back to our time to become the hero he always imagined himself. He set himself up in Metropolis and went toe-to-toe with Superman for popularity. It was a nifty premise, and the first Booster series – which ran 25 issues – did a good job of exploring Booster’s past and present (and future). Jurgens’ writing and art always seem just a little stiff to me, but you can’t fault his enthusiasm or cleverness.

It seems that Booster’s popularity has finally reached the point where it’s time for him to get his own series, but how do you relaunch a character who’s, well, done it all? Apparently by having him do it all again: Booster is recruited by Rip Hunter, Time Master to help repair damage in the fabric of time, which someone may be exploiting to destroy the Justice League. He’s finally convinced to side with Hunter rather than joining the JLA himself, but at a price. It’s an interesting premise – one which might wear thin quickly, but which suggests that perhaps there’s a goal at the end of the road, rather than a series of one-off adventures. Which would be nice.

Jurgens returns on art, credited with the “layouts”, which usually means the final art more reflects the style of the guy doing the finishes – by Norm Rapmund in this case – but it looks like Jurgens’ art through-and-through. Geoff Johns co-writes with Jeff Katz, which I suspect means that Katz is doing the bulk of the writing while Johns is present to lend some name recognition to the book. Hard to tell. All things considered, it’s not a bad start.

The Brave and the Bold #6B&B wraps up its first storyline, “The Lords of Luck”, with one final set of guest stars as our heroes take on some bad guys who know every move they have planned – almost. It’s almost anticlimactic after the big Legion issue last month, but this has been a great series. I guess Waid and Pérez have one more storyline planned before Waid heads off to become editor-in-chief of Boom! Studios.

But I think it’s going to be a while before either creator manages to top this one. This has been a great series so far.

Invincible #44Okay, I broke down and decided to add Invincible to my monthly reads. I picked up the latest TPB and the latest three issues, which gets me all up-to-date on the story.

I’m pretty impressed with how Robert Kirkman juggles the large cast, characters who come and go, relationships that shift over the course of a year or two, villains who sometimes get their final rewards and others who keep coming back, he does a good job of keeping you guessing. I think sometimes he’s a little too brutal in handling the characters, and that certain characters get the short end of the stick in their exposure, but nobody’s perfect.

It takes a lot for a serial story which isn’t headed to some sort of definitive conclusion to keep my hooked. I’ve read through four years’ worth of Invincible this year, and it looks like it might be that book.

Oh, and Ryan Ottley‘s art just keeps getting better and better.